It was not only surprising, but actually shocking to hear the Prime Minister, a noted economist, making allegations that agriculture was in a mess during the NDA regime and the present UPA government was cleaning up that ?mess?. It was perfectly in order for Smt Sonia Gandhi to say these things because she is only a politician and is not expected to deal with the nitty-gritty of what is essentially a scientific issue. However, surely Dr. Manmohan Singh is aware that the achievements of the NDA in agriculture can easily be gauged from official publications prepared during the UPA regime itself which will prove how wrong they are on this issue.
In the following paragraphs we will deal with statistics published in the Economic Survey of 2007-08 (ES8) placed in Parliament by Shri Chidambaram on February 28 and DATA BOOK 2007 (DB7) published by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Sources other than these will be acknowledged at the requisite places.
Let us see the production and productivity of wheat. DB7 says that wheat production during the NDA regime (1998-2004). The production in 1998-99 was 71.29 million tonnes (MT) in 1998-99, five million tones more than during the previous year, 1997-98.The next year'sproduction was 76.37 MT, a record which has not been surpassed either by the NDA or the UPA regime. Only in 2006-07, production went up to 75.8 MT, still below that record and the assessment for 07-08 is again less than that in 06-07 (74.8 MT) according to the second advance estimate. (ES8, page 156)
The last year of the NDA showed the production at 72.16 MT but thereafter, the production was 68.64 MT in 04-05 and 69.35 MT in 05-06. The production in 06-07 crossed the 70 MT mark to 75.81 MT. The story of declining production of wheat during the UPA regime has to be connected with the plethora of stories regarding import of wheat. Had UPA government paid heed to agriculture, we would have been exporting wheat, not importing it. The neglect by the UPA government has been responsible for India now becoming a net importer of what and there is no guarantee that during the 11th five year plan period also, India can do without importing wheat every year.
Let us refer to DB7 again, this time for rice. The production in 1998.99, the first year of the NDA regime, was 89.68 MT, about three and a half MT more than in the previous year. Production in 01-02 was 93.34 MT, a record which has just been broken in 06-07 with the production figure being 93.35 MT. Production during the NDA period (which included the ?severe? drought of 2002, the word severe being inserted from official records) was 89.68 MT in 99-00, 84.98 MT in 00-01, 93.34 MT in 01-02, 71.82 MT in 02-03 (drought year) and 88.53 MT in 03-04, the last year of the NDA regime. In the next four years, the UPA regime has just been able to touch the 01-02 figures.
Total foodgrain production during the last year of the NDA regime was 213.2 MT, which could not be surpassed in four years of UPA rule. It was only in 06-07 that the production went up to 217.3 MT. The second advanced estimate for 07-08 puts in at 219.3 MT (ES8).
We have clearer picture of the foodgrains production, imports and exports from an article by Dr. S.S. Acharya former, Honorary Professor of Institute of Developmental Studies Jaipur in the July-September issue of the NAAS (National Academy of Agricultural Sciences) News entitled ?Wheat Imports and India'sFood Management Policy?.
The article shows that India had to import 613 MT, 1486 MT, 1804 MT and 1366 MT (figures min thousands) of wheat during the period 1996-97, 1997-98, 1998-99 and 1999-2000 respectively. However in the next five years, beginning 2000-01, there were only exports, of (in thousand tonnes) 814, 2649, 3671, 4093 and 1996. Imports were of the order of just 5,000 tonnes during this period.
These figures show how sound was the agricultural economy during the NDA regime.
The wheat harvesting season for 2007-08 is about to begin and according to the second advance estimate, the production is unlike to be substantially more than 75 MT. Isn'tit time that the Government starts negotiating from now on for imports during the next few months?
The UPA regime has been lucky that it has encountered only one mild drought of 13 per cent less rainfall in, 2004-05. The NDA had to face a 19 per cent shortfall of rainfall in 2002, a year of severe drought, and yet produced the very next year 2003-04, a record 213.19 MT.
As is well known, State agencies procure excess foodgrains from farmers through the Food Corporation of India (FCI) or its authorised agents, mostly State organs There are norms, called buffer norms, for three months in a year.
Let us have a look at the Table No. 7.25, Pge 177 of ES8. The January 2004 norm.
For wheat was 8.4 MT. The actual stock was 12.7 MT. For July it was 14.3 MT. The Actual was 19.2 MT. This was the NDA figures (Wheat is harvested in April-May and procures during those and following months).
Now let us have a look at the position in recent days. For January 1, 2007, the norm was 8.2 MT. Actual figure was 5.4 MT. For July 1, it was 17.1 MT, actual 12.9 MT. For January 1, 2008, the norm was 8.2 MT, actual 7.7. MT. We are not taking up rice because its availability has been adequate.